The Lord has done great things for us

Psalm 126

A Song of Ascents.

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter
and our tongue with joyful shouting;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Restore our captivity, O Lord,
as the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
he who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.1

It seemed too good to be true that they were able to return to Jerusalem. It was like a dream—they couldn’t believe it. Now they want to give a testimony to the world.

The remnant of Israel that returned to their land after the Babylonian captivity does not exhaust the meaning of this psalm. It also looks forward to their national restoration when their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, returns.

Let me quote Dr. Gaebelein’s comment at the conclusion of this Psalm. “Beautiful is the ending of this Psalm of prophecy. We must think first of all of Him who came in humility and sowed His precious seed with tears, our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Only His Father knows the many tears which He shed in His presence in secret prayer . . .  And it is perfectly proper to apply this to ourselves also. So let us weep and scatter the seed! ‘Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not’ (Gal. 6:9)” (The Book of Psalms, p. 456).2

1New American Standard Bible (NASB)Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

2J. Vernon McGee, Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983).

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The closer His embrace

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He has chosen not to heal me,
but to hold me.
The more intense the pain,
the closer His embrace.
-Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing:
Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering,
Pain, and God’s Sovereignty

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God is Love

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God Is Love

by Joni Eareckson Tada

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” 
—I John 4:16

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are fellowshiping in a waterfall of love and joy. It is nothing short of amazing that the Trinity is driven to share that joy with us. It was the Savior’s mission: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you.” (John 15:11). What joy the Trinity enjoys! Misery may love company, but joy craves a crowd, and so the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s plan to rescue humans is not only for man’s sake. It is for God’s sake. The Father is gathering a crowd–an inheritance, pure and blameless–to worship His Son in the joy of the Holy Spirit. “God is love” and the wish of love is to drench with delight those for whom God has suffered.

Soon believers will step into the waterfall of joy and pleasure that is the Trinity. Better yet, we will become part of a Niagara Falls of thunderous delight as “God is all and in all.” In heaven, we will not only know God, we willknow Him in that deep, personal union, that utter euphoria of experiencing Him. There in heaven we will“eat of the tree of life” and be filled to overflowing with more joy and pleasure than we can contain (Revelation 22:2).

Amazing grace, how can it be, that God would share His joy for eternity with me? Remember, God shares His joy on His terms; and those terms call for us to, in some measure, suffer as His beloved Son did while on earth (I Peter 2:21). If you and I experience hardship, it is paving the way for a deeper joy for all of eternity!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thank You for inviting me into the fellowship of Your joy. Thank You for preparing me for heaven’s joy as I trust You in the fellowship of Your sufferings while on earth.

Blessings,

Joni and Friends 
www.joniandfriends.org

Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Monsoon Storms = Pain + Exhaustion

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Well, it’s that time of the year again up here in northern Arizona. Monsoon weather is hitting me hard as usual. The storm systems that build up each day combined with the fluctuating barometric pressure cause horrible migraines with nausea. My body is constantly fighting these pain and nausea attacks and that leaves me with a bone-deep exhaustion that no amount of sleep seems to relieve. This means I need to cut back on all my activities, so I’ll be mostly sharing blog posts from others, plus the wonderful devotionals from my sweet friend Pat Knight. These take me much less time, which helps me conserve energy.

Beloved, I’m not sure how long this siege will last, so please bear with me. I covet your prayers. As always, I will be praying for all of you.

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor;
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord;
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation,
devoted to prayer,
contributing to the needs of the saints,
practicing hospitality.
—Romans 12:9-13

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Raining Blessings

This is another devotional from Streams in the DesertIt made my eyes leak. 

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God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
—Genesis 41:52

A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:

It isn’t raining again to me —it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.

Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”

Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life.

You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.

No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could ever produce in your innermost being.  —J.M.M

Songs across the Storm

A harp stood in the calm, still air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;

A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;

The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;

And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes

While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.

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Godliness + Contentment

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Godliness + Contentment

By Patricia Knight

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

We could list the aspects of our lives that have changed due to the invasion of adversity, but that exercise would not change our circumstances. Instead of stressing the negative, why not accentuate the positive? List the gains rather than the losses. Reflect on the people you’ve met, the introspection you’ve gained, the spiritual strength and dependency that has grown, the patience learned, and the ability to mature in your faith.

If we are able to combine our faith with personal well-being, then improvement or enrichment will result. We have learned the secret for peace of mind. Following God, no matter what occurs in our lives, believing that whatever He chooses is best for us, and telling others about God’s goodness and grace, will all contribute toward our personal and spiritual riches.

1Thes5-18-HandSilhouetteSunset-35--AMPAs difficult as it may seem, we can develop a greater dependency upon our Lord even during afflictions. Therefore, we can go forward to accomplish whatever God asks us to do for Him, not in spite of pain, but because of it. We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances”(1 Thessalonians 5:18). The thankfulness we express is not an appreciation for leading a restricted, hurtful life, but rather it is a means of recognizing and showing gratitude for God’s sovereign leadership in our lives. Whatever He plans for us is perfect in its design and timing. 

Learning patience and perseverance produces a stronger faith. We learn those attributes by practicing them. Our hardship gives us reason to develop positive and useful emotional tools—those with which we can reach out to others in their time of need.  Christian maturity will follow.

When God has something to teach us, He may set us aside in order to instruct us in life’s lessons. The experience we gain will be invaluable in serving a loving, faithful God and others.

“Godliness + contentment = great gain”
is a method of expressing the verse as a formula for life.
It defines a spiritual goal for us—
one that God honors.

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Happy Father’s Day to the “Really” Fathers

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Father’s Day can be joyful and full of love and happy memories. You probably had a father who showed his love for you in many ways, every single day. These are the fathers who selflessly spent time with us and encouraged us.

Some of us may have grown up without a father, or a series of events took our father away from us. Possibly we had a father who caused us harm or didn’t love us.

And then there are those of us who were adopted by “really” fathers. That’s what this sweet Father’s Day video is about. In it Levi and Lia tell the story of their journey from fatherless to fatherfull.

Beloved, there is a Father who cares for and loves each one of us with a love that cannot be understood. This is so difficult for us to believe, and yet it is true. God loves us with an unending love that never fades. Hold onto that when you’re tempted to feel “less than” or down about your upbringing.

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Fearful Hands

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All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt.
Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.
—Isaiah 3:7-8

Fearful Hands

By Patricia Knight

“Hands hang limp,” a description used four times in the Old Testament, is a metaphor expressing fear or failing courage. Isaiah 3:7-8 records, “All hands will go limp; every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them.” A typical reaction to intense fear is a limp, incapable mind and body. We freeze in our most ineffectual state. Doubts assail us; fear paralyzes us.

Jesus had just miraculously fed in excess of 5,000 men with a boy’s lunch of five barley loaves and two fish. After the baskets of extra food were gathered, Jesus commanded His disciples to go ahead of Him and cross the lake by boat while he dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus slipped away into the mountains for solitary prayer.

Imagine that you were one of Jesus’ disciples. By now it was dark. Jesus had left your group, assuring you He would rejoin you in Bethsaida. Each of you were familiar with the demands of navigation on the local waterways. Several of you were fisherman by trade, having spent your lifetime coaxing a living from the sea. Your group of disciples had rowed three and a half miles into the lake in the pitch darkness. There were no lighthouses or emergency flares; just total blackness.

From Jesus’ outlook on the mountain, He could see you, His beloved disciples, struggling at the oars as the wind buffeted your boat. “At the fourth watch of the night {between 3:00 and 6:00 am} he went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:48).  

Distracted by the wind storm and thinking only of survival, you disciples worked as a team to keep your boat on course. Suddenly, out of the dark, tumultuous night appeared what you interpreted to be a ghost. With terror in your hearts, you cried out in shock. You had learned the superstitions about spirits in the night, causing disasters. Perhaps this was a water spirit which you had heard spoken about in hushed tones by the elders who told of experiences encountered during their lifetime of boating and fishing.

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Immediately he spoke to them and said,
“Take courage! It is I.
Don’t be afraid.”

Then he climbed into the boat with them,
and the wind died down.
They were completely amazed.
—Mark 6:50-51

In response to your fear, Jesus immediately “spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then He climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely amazed” (Mark 6:50-51). Not one of you had recognized Jesus until He spoke. Little did you realize when Jesus walked on the water toward your boat, He was displaying the majestic presence and authority of His Lordship, ruling over the waves. As His Word testifies of Him, “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them” (Psalm 89:9).

God commands, “Do not fear…; do not let your hands hang limp” (Zephaniah 3:16).  Though hands hanging limp is an alternative method to explain fear, I wonder if the disciples’ hands dropped their oars during that frightful, majestic night when Jesus appeared to His chosen men by walking on water?

How often do our hands hang limp when what we need is a surge of heavenly courage and power similar to the promise Moses gave Joshua centuries ago.

“’Be strong and courageous… The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

Deut31-7-8-StrongBarbedWire--AMPOur experiences with fear may not be as visually explicit as witnessing our Master walk on the surface of water before our eyes. Nevertheless, our fears are just as real. Do such tragedies as developing cancer, being victimized with identity theft, or suddenly losing all of  our earthly possessions in a natural disaster, instill fear in our hearts? Do we allow panic and anxiety to wash over us like raging ocean waves, or do we grab the oars and look to the Master of the Seas as our Source of help?  Our head as well as our hands often hang limp with discouragement in an emergency situation. However, God has promised to care for His own, to provide for all our needs, and to give us victory in conflict.

Joseph was shamefully treated by his brothers when they forced him into a cistern and sold him as a slave to passing merchants. He was then sold to the captain of the guard in Egypt where he prospered, but without warning he was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison where he remained for several years, seemingly forgotten!

Job, known and admired as a model citizen who loved and served God, was victimized by having his property burned, his animals stolen, his children killed, and his health so compromised, he was humiliated, grieving, and in constant pain.

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had suffered in servitude to the Egyptians as brick makers for centuries. They felt hopeless and helpless, waiting for God to rescue them from their cruel taskmasters.

Do any of our fears compare to what Bible characters suffered centuries ago? Perhaps our experiences pale in comparison or we could be dealing with much more horrendous hardships. The Israelites, Joseph, and Job all feared for their lives. Their circumstances reversed when God intervened, working out individual life plans, blessing them richly. Their catastrophic life stories are contained in God’s Word so we can learn from their mistakes and their victories. We aren’t so different from those biblical figures who suffered hardship, disease, and injustice. Their ultimate victory was a gift from God who loved them deeply, just as He does us.

God’s promises have remained constant throughout the centuries. “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25, 26). God is worthy of our trust. With promises so personal and profound, why not permanently put fear to rest and rely on God’s rich mercy and grace? Don’t let your hands hang limp, but trust your Lord enough to grasp His hands and walk in step with Him day-by-day.

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Adjusting to Serious Illness

This is an excellent article from CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help. It is not easy to live with chronic illness, whether you’re the patient, the caregiver, friend or family member. Included in this article are ten practical ways that patients and their families can use to make their households and relationships work better.

Adjusting to Serious Illness:
Strategies for Patients and Their Families

By Bruce Campbell

CFS and fibromyalgia force profound adjustments, both for patients and for those around them. Household tasks are juggled, finances are often strained, and all family members wonder what the future will bring. What strategies will help you and your family adjust if you are struggling with the disruptions created by CFS or FM?

Understanding Your Unique Situation

The foundation of an effective response is understanding your unique situation. Every family’s circumstances are different. Just as each patient must individualize his or her self-management strategy, families need to develop a response to CFS or FM that fits their individual circumstances.

The scope of adjustments will be dictated by the seriousness of the patient’s health problems. CFS and fibromyalgia vary greatly in severity. The average person in our self-help program reports that she functions at about 25% of normal, but there are sizeable numbers who are housebound, while others are less affected and continue to work part time or full time. The severity of medical issues will set the limits on the amount of adjustment required.

The family’s financial situation is also crucial. Some families can afford to let the ill person stop working or have her take an early retirement, while others are stretched financially and may be forced to make financial adjustments of various kinds. The presence or absence of children and, if present, their ages is significant. Couples with school-age children have to juggle work and child care. Those with adult children may get help from their kids. The health of the spouse is another important factor. In some families, both spouses are ill or a normally-healthy spouse has a health emergency like a heart attack or surgery.

A final factor is the strength of the bond between the partners. Some marriages are made stronger by illness, while others become frayed and still others break. The response of the well spouse to illness may vary from strong support, on the one hand, to disbelief, abuse and abandonment on the other. Some people in our groups, who have had multiple marriages report that they have experienced the full range of possible responses, most commonly a lack of support in an initial relationship and understanding in a later one.

Ten Strategies

Here are ten ideas for how families can adapt to CFS or FM.

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Read the rest here

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God’s Presence in Pain

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Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.
—Paul Purvis, 
First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL

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